Wonderland (2 stars)

Wonderland Review

Lewis Carroll's classic is abused by lazy writing, while the cast retain some respect

Beneath the poor musical pastiches, a libretto that sounds as if it was not so much written as complied from a rhyming dictionary and the shallow character development, Wonderland has a ham-fisted feminist message. While the cast struggle to inject life into a series of vaguely connected set-pieces, Gregory Boyd and Jack Murphy's book provides a weak story that takes Lewis Carroll's celebrated children's novels as an excuse to deliver a lazy narrative that fails to either capture 'the magic' or the importance of the tale's moral.

Alice is a disenchanted, divorced and desperate mother: the first musical number describes her worst day, quickly setting up the horrors of real life (ex-husband is remarrying, her car is stolen, she loses her job). Her daughter, forced to behave like an adult to support her feckless mother, joins her in a trip down the rabbit hole, where they are offered a fantasy life. Joined by an insipid male neighbour – the love interest – Alice confronts her anxieties, realises that her ex-husband was abusive and returns to the real world, now with a new partner and a daughter who is now in touch with her rebellious teenage identity.

This perfunctory plot is fleshed out with a parade of familiar characters, who decide to rebel against the Queen of Hearts, then change their minds. Despite a funky routine from the Caterpillar (Kayi Usher), there's no attempt to explore Wonderland beyond repeating that it's filled with people who became bored with life and decided to live in a fairy tale: the message of taking responsibility for change is undermined when the characters just have to jump through a magic looking glass to become the person they'd like to be.

The book can't seem to decide whether the drama is in the Mad Hatter's rebellion, Alice's steps to self-understanding and a new lover, or her daughter's journey back to sardonic adolescence. The musical numbers rotate through familiar genres – a bit of jazz, a couple of power ballads – before settling on over-wrought and dated soft rock. And while the clichéd choreography is not helped by over-crowded stage, the ensemble work hard to get across a lively passion. Yet there is so little to work with: the protagonists lack depth, the scenario is all surface, and while Alice and her new heteronormative family unit may have learnt something from their adventures, Wonderland fails to enchant.

Wonderland

  • Directed by: Javier de Frutos
  • Written by: Moira Buffini (lyrics)

West End star Wendi Peters stars as Queen of Hearts in Frank Wildhorn's musical adaptation of Alice's Adventures in Wonderland. Also starring Dave Willetts as the White Rabbit and Britain’s Got Talent finalist Rachel Wooding as Alice.

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